The Camp Lejeune water contamination affected countless families for generations. If you’ve felt the impact of this tragedy, contact the Guardian Legal Network.
Camp Lejeune Water Contamination: Family Members Feel the Brunt
Military members stationed at U.S. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina were exposed to contaminated drinking water for over 30 years. The drinking water was “contaminated with industrial solvents, benzene, and other chemicals” and some scientists have called it the “worst public drinking-water contamination in the nation’s history.”
Military members are often stationed with their families, meaning family members living at Camp Lejeune during the period between August 1, 1953 and December 31, 1987 were also exposed to contaminated water. Children and family members have borne the brunt of the exposure, and they continue to feel the impact even decades later.
Camp Lejeune Contamination: What Happened
Every glass of water. Every bath. Every drink from the hose. Everything single drop of water was contaminated. For three decades, military personnel and their family members consumed and utilized drinking water they later discovered to be contaminated.
It took years for the real impact of the simple act of consuming contaminated water to be exposed. Marine leaders purportedly found signs of groundwater contamination in the early 1980s, but it was years before they shut down the wells due to water contamination. Years that marines and their loved ones continued to consume the contaminated water. Years that would impact generations of families.
As time passed, veterans and their loved ones began to face serious health diagnoses. Now, veterans who were exposed to contaminated water and later diagnosed with certain conditioners may be entitled to disability benefits. The associated conditions include the following:
- Adult leukemia
- Aplastic anemia and other myelodysplastic syndromes
- Bladder cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Liver cancer
- Multiple myeloma
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Parkinson’s disease
The above diseases are not the only hardships veterans and their families may face. There are several other health conditions that have impacted and continue to impact Camp Lejeune families, including:
- Esophageal cancer
- Breast cancer
- Renal toxicity
- Female infertility
- Lung cancer
- Hepatic steatosis
- Neurobehavioral effects
Camp Lejeune water contamination family members have not suffered in silence. The tragedy of Camp Lejeune motivated many people to act to ensure justice for those harmed by the effects of Camp Lejeune water. In 2022, almost 70 years after the beginning of the contamination, the Honoring our PACT Act was signed into law, ensuring the victims of Camp Lejeune can seek the justice they deserve.
Side Effects of Camp Lejeune Water Contamination
The above list of health conditions resulting from Camp Lejeune water contamination is troubling. Many of the above conditions carry long-term effects that impact every aspect of a person’s life. Some are even fatal.
Every health condition has its side effects. If you were diagnosed with any of these health conditions and underwent treatment, your daily life would be interrupted by the side effects of treatment and medications. Each condition can initially present with its own side effects and symptoms.
Initially, esophageal cancer can present with no signs or symptoms. This means a person could go about their daily life unaware that anything is wrong. As the cancer progresses, a person may experience the following signs and symptoms:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Weight loss without trying
- Chest pain, pressure, or burning
- Worsening indigestion or heartburn
- Coughing or hoarseness
Scleroderma impacts everyone differently, but almost everyone who develops it experiences a hardening and tightening of the skin. Scleroderma complications vary and can affect some or all of the following parts of the body:
- Fingertips: the tissue can become permanently damaged or even die
- Lungs: breathing can be impacted
- Kidneys: complications can result in kidney failure
- Heart: including congestive heart failure
- Teeth: tightening of the skin around the mouth can make dental care difficult, resulting in oral health issues
- Digestive system: including heartburn, issues with swallowing, cramps, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
- Joints: tightening skin can negatively affect joint flexibility and movement, making everyday activities more difficult
Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can present with a variety of symptoms, including the following:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Chest pain, coughing, or trouble breathing
- Persistent fatigue
- Night sweats
- Unexplained weight loss
Treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma varies. Some treatments’ side effects can dramatically impact a person’s health and well-being, and some effects may last for the rest of their lives.
“Neurobehavioral effects” is a broad term, but according to the Institute of Medicine, it can include the following:
- Lack of coordination
- Sensory disturbances
- Trouble concentrating
- Deficits in attention or reaction time
- Certain neuropsychological disorders such as learning or behavioral disorders
Some or all of these are side effects that victims of Camp Lejeune water contamination struggle with on a daily basis.
Common Camp Lejeune Birth Defects
In addition to cancer and other health problems, Camp Lejeune parents have watched their children suffer from birth defects and health issues. One study examined potential Camp Lejeune birth defects, looking at whether maternal exposure to contaminated Camp Lejeune drinking water increased the risk of neural tube defects, oral clefts, and childhood hematopoietic cancers. The results suggest an association between the contaminated Camp Lejeune drinking water and neural tube defects.
- Spina bifida, a spinal cord defect
- Anencephaly, a brain defect
Each of the above birth defects carries its own challenges. The signs and symptoms of spina bifida vary by type and severity. Tragically, almost all babies born with anencephaly will die shortly after birth.
Other Fertility Issues
Camp Lejeune contaminated water had a dramatic impact on women and their fertility. Many women who drank the water at Camp Lejeune suffered a loss of fertility. For women, infertility is defined as trying to conceive with frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year with no success.
Unfortunately, many women who could get pregnant at Camp Lejeune still risked a miscarriage due to the contaminated drinking water. There is a cemetery at Camp Lejeune named “Baby Heaven,” filled with countless infant graves from the decades of water contamination.
Your Family Deserves Justice
If you or your family members were injured as a result of spending time at Camp Lejeune, you may qualify for damages. If you believe you’ve suffered adverse health effects, including fertility issues, from spending time at Camp Lejeune, then you should contact the Guardian Legal Network. We’re here to help and can connect you with experienced attorneys ready to fight for you and your family. You and your family deserve justice.
- “Camp Lejeune Research Studies.” Veterans Affairs, https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/research.asp. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- Levesque, William. “Camp Lejeune Water Contamination History.” St. Lawrence County, 18 October 2009, https://stlawco.org/Departments/Veterans/CampLejeuneWaterContaminationHistory. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Camp Lejeune water contamination health issues.” Veterans Affairs, https://www.va.gov/disability/eligibility/hazardous-materials-exposure/camp-lejeune-water-contamination/#:~:text=Aplastic%20anemia%20and%20other%20myelodysplastic,Liver%20cancer. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “H.R.3967 – Honoring our PACT Act of 2022.” Library of Congress, https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/3967. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Esophageal cancer.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/esophageal-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20356084. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Scleroderma.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/scleroderma/symptoms-causes/syc-20351952#:~:text=Digestive%20problems%20associated%20with%20scleroderma,of%20bacteria%20in%20the%20intestine.. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/non-hodgkins-lymphoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20375680. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- Committee on the Review of Clinical Guidance for the Care of Health Conditions Identified by the Camp Lejeune Legislation; Board on the Health of Select Populations; Institute of Medicine. “Review of VA Clinical Guidance for the Health Conditions Identified by the Camp Lejeune Legislation.” National Library of Medicine, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK284982/. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Birth Defects and Childhood Cancers Study.” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/sites/lejeune/birthdefectstudy.html#:~:text=ATSDR’s%20study%20results%20suggested%20weaker,than%20those%20found%20for%20NTDs. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Facts about Neural Tube Defects.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/facts-about-neural-tube-defects.html#:~:text=NTDs%20occur%20when%20the%20neural,anencephaly%20(a%20brain%20defect). Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Spina bifida.” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/spina-bifida/symptoms-causes/syc-20377860#:~:text=Spina%20bifida%20is%20a%20birth,the%20tissues%20that%20enclose%20them. Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “Facts about Anencephaly.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/anencephaly.html#:~:text=Anencephaly%20is%20a%20serious%20birth,part%20of%20the%20neural%20tube). Accessed August 11, 2022.
- “‘Baby Heaven’ is filled with row after row of infant graves.” Justice for Lejeune, https://justiceforlejeune.org/baby-heaven. Accessed August 11, 2022.